Cookie for The Rookie

The Rookie

Directed by John Lee Hancock

(Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Brian Cox, Taylor Ball)

G

Cinematic formula #15: The baseball film.

Even occasional moviegoers know this genre. There are good films, such as Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, and The Sandlot, and there are those in the minor league (For Love of the Game and Hardball).

In fact, The Rookie might more aptly be titled The Loveable Veteran, not only because of its aging main
character, but because of its place in the baseball genre. It is indeed a veteran, offering up nothing particularly new, but at the same time becoming an iteration of a Hollywood standard.

I often wondered why baseball films strike people more powerfully than those of other sports. The answer may be baseball’s intimate competition. It is not a team game, but a sport capturing the drama of a given person at a given time striving for greatness.

The Rookie is about one man achieving what he never thought possible. Jimmy Morris (Dennis Quaid) coaches a little league team in rural Texas. He promises to try out for the majors if the team keeps winning. When his catalyst succeeds, he must follow through with his promise and soon finds himself succeeding in the minor leagues and beyond.

Make no mistake, bad baseball films fail to find any emotional resonance with an audience. They are composed of buzz words and cheap payoffs. The Rookie, however, takes the road less traveled. It patiently focuses on realistic characters. Quaid convincingly portrays a skepticism about his dreams, reflecting the inner conflict of a parent. Similar to the great baseball films of the past, the real payoffs lie in the relationships between a man, his wife, his son and his parents off the field.

Director John Lee Hancock shows an unorthodox restraint for the genre. While everyone knows how Jimmy’s journey will ultimately end, Hancock spends a great deal of time with characters along the way. Truly touching moments, from reconcliations to life-changing decisions, are this film’s treasures.

If you’ve seen one baseball film, you’ve seen the elements that comprise almost all baseball films. Differences emerge through emotional realism. To The Rookie’s credit, Jimmy is a realistic person.

Lovers of the genre will be entertained. You know who you are.

– Steven Snyder

 

The Rookie opens Friday in theaters nationwide.